It may be hard to believe an 0-3
team is heading into its fourth game of the season with confidence but that is
the case for the Idaho Vandals.
Though they disappointed in their
first game, came up short in their second, and succumbed to a BCS power in the
third, the Vandals have been able to make strides here and there as they return
to the Kibbie Dome for Saturday’s 2 p.m. game against Wyoming.
“There are a few things we have to
make sure we do control,” coach Robb Akey said. “Our mental fortitude, our
toughness; the way we go about things
“I have a football team that is
going to come in here with confidence and play with confidence.”
A couple reasons would be the play
of junior quarterback Dominique Blackman, who was protected without a sack
against SEC power LSU last week, and a defensive unit that was able to wreck
three sacks on the Tigers.
Blackman’s success, which includes
a two-game completion percentage of 72.6 is aided by a host of sure-handed
receivers. To date, 11 players have caught passes with transfers Jahrie Level
(15 for 167) and Najee Lovett (14 for 154, and senior Mike Scott (10 for 105)
leading the way.
Defensively, the Vandals have come
up with an interception in each game (Homer Mauga vs. Eastern Washington,
Solomon Dixon at Bowling Green State and Gary Walker at LSU), while Benson
Mayowa already has three sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss. Walker leads the total
tackles department with 25. Right behind at 23 each are Aaron Grymes and Conrad
Those numbers, Akey said, show the
progress the Vandals are making as the season unfolds.
“Certainly, it’s aggravating to be
sitting here without a win going into our fourth game of the season,” he said. “There
is no question about that. We need to get a streak started – a winning streak.
The only way you can start a winning streak is to win.”
Both teams are 0-3 with a similar pattern to their schedules. Both have losses to ranked teams (LSU and Texas), to Mid-American teams (Bowling Green and Toledo) and to FCS teams (Eastern Washington and Cal Poly).
Robb Akey is in his sixth season as head coach at Idaho. After rebuilding in his first two seasons, his 2009 team won the Humanitarian Bowl and his 2010 team was on the verge of repeating as a bowl team. He is a graduate of Weber State University and coached for his alma mater (1988-94) as well as Northern Arizona University (1995-98) and Washington State University (1999-2006) before taking over at Idaho in his first head coaching job.
Dave Christensen is in fourth season as Wyoming’s head coach. A native of Everett, Wash., he is a graduate of the University of Washington and began his coaching career at Western Washington (1983). He spent two years in the high school ranks before coaching two seasons (1986-87) at Spokane Falls Community College. He was an assistant at Washington in 1988 before spending two seasons at Idaho State, seven at Toledo and 12 as Missouri’s offensive coordinator before taking the head job at Wyoming in 2009. He is 18-23 with the Cowboys.
Wyoming leads the series 4-1. It was last played at Wyoming in 1999 with the Cowboys winning 28-13. The only game played at Moscow also was Idaho’s lone victory – 31-3 in 1921.
The game is on ESPN3. Peter Young and John Fina are Saturday’s announcers.
Tom Morris (play by play) and Evan Ellis (analysis) again are calling the gameday action with KZFN (FM 106.1) as the flagship of the statewide, 14-station network. A complete list of stations is on page 3.
Idaho’s captains for the 2012 season are receiver Mike Scott (senior; Palo Alto, Calif.), cornerback Aaron Grymes (senior; Seattle, Wash), and punter Bobby Cowan (senior; Vancouver, Wash.).
ONTO THE FIELD
The Vandals have added a third element to their entrance onto the playing field. Traditionally, they have carried an American Flag and a battle ax commemorating the tradition of the Vandal. This year, they’ve added a flag that honors the memory of former Idaho receiver Ken McRoyal, who died last summer.
HONORING OUR ARMED FORCES
Saturday’s game is Idaho’s annual Military Appreciation Day with a special nod being given to those who served in Vietnam on this 50th anniversary of the beginning of that war. Military personnel will deliver the official coin for the game by rappelling down the East End wall. There also is a swearing-in ceremony for new enlistees at halftime. All veterans and their families will receive a 50 percent discount on a game ticket.
HONORING OUR OWN
Saturday’s game also is the Hall of Fame game. Nine individuals and one team will be inducted into the Vandal Athletics Hall of Fame September 21. The 2012 class includes Jim Anderson (lifetime achievement), Vic Drygall (track and field/cross country), Dick Mooney (football, baseball, lifetime contributions), Morey O’Donnell (composer, Go Vandals Go), Pat Perrine (track and field), Cathy Shanander Law (tennis), Patricia Shanander (tennis), Riley Smith (basketball), Frank Young (boxing) and the 1966 baseball team.
University of Wyoming assistant coach Chris Tormey is a charter member of the Vandal Athletics Hall of Fame after leading the Vandals to the 1998 Humanitarian Bowl Championship. Coincidentally, the last time Idaho and Wyoming met on the football field (1999), Tormey was head coach for the Vandals.